Tigers Rewarded for their Effort
Nobody in the SEC really thought the LSU Tigers were that bad.
Certainly not bad enough to lose 10 consecutive games like they did between Jan. 15 and Feb. 20.
But that's exactly what the team managed to do before finally snapping out of the dreadful funk with an 84-82 win Feb. 23 over Mississippi State.
The streak was starting to take its toll on the team, which now gets to prepare for a Feb. 26 game against Vanderbilt without that huge monkey on its back.
"I honestly feel like we were tired of losing," sophomore guard Aaron Dotson said. "This whole season has been rough on us because we know that we can play. The coaches and players have done a great job staying positive and pushing each other and it really helped us tonight. Everybody on the floor played their part and we did very well together."
Somehow, despite that 10-game skid, LSU head coach Trent Johnson managed to keep his team fighting.
"We have not been playing very well," Johnson said. "It has been a while, but we had to continue to fight."
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: If LSU home game vs. Vanderbilt turns into a 3-point shooting contest, the Tigers could be in trouble as the Commodores through Feb. 23 were ranked No. 2 in 3-point field goal percentage and 3-point defense. On the opposite end of those categories is LSU, ranked No. 11 in both categories. Fortunately for the Tigers, they might be catching Vandy at a good time. In Vanderbilt's Feb. 22 loss to Tennessee, the Commodores shot a season-worst 18.8 percent (3 of 16) from 3-point range. LSU, meanwhile, hit nine 3-pointers in a Feb. 23 win over Mississippi State, the most the Tigers have made in an SEC game this season. They hit 8 of 14 in the first half alone.
--Mississippi State's 18 turnovers and LSU's 14 offensive rebounds gave the Tigers enough opportunities to overcome the Bulldogs' hot shooting night in an 84-82 LSU victory, snapping a 10-game losing streak. Both teams made 28 field goals and nine 3-pointers, but LSU was able to put up 17 more shots in the game and had a slight edge at the free-throw line to pick up the victory.
--The 84 points LSU scored in a Feb. 23 win over Mississippi State were the most the team scored in SEC play this season and the most since putting up 87 points in a Nov. 12 season-opening victory of Southland Conference foe Northwestern State. The Tigers hadn't even managed to score more than 62 points in an SEC game this season prior to the explosion at Mississippi State.
--LSU matched its SEC win total from 2010 just two games into the conference season. But the Tigers, who finished 2-14 in the conference last year, lost their next 10 games through Feb. 20.
--Florida's victory against LSU on Feb. 20 was its first in Baton Rouge since 2003. LSU had won three straight home games against the Gators.
BY THE NUMBERS: 2 -- Games LSU played in a four-day stretch against SEC divisional leaders. The Tigers lost to SEC West leader Alabama on Feb. 17 before falling to SEC East leader Florida on Feb. 20.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I wish there were some things we could do different. I wish I could force them to be bigger, stronger and faster right now, but there's some things that just have to wait." -- LSU coach Trent Johnson.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--vs. Vanderbilt, Feb. 26
KEY MATCHUPS: LSU still ranked fifth in the SEC in scoring defense through Feb. 20, but the Tigers had struggled against teams that were shooting high percentages from the perimeter. Vanderbilt is one of those teams. Entering the week, the Commodores ranked second to Kentucky in 3-point percentage, as well as second in scoring offense and fourth in field-goal percentage. LSU had leaned on a zone defense to compensate for its lack of experience and athleticism. To upset Vanderbilt, the Tigers may have to play more man-to-man.
FUTURES MARKET: LSU got a spark Feb. 20 against Florida from an unlikely source. Sophomore walk-on Daron Populist, who hadn't played double-digit minutes in any of the first 11 conference games, was effective running the offense in his 11 minutes of action. He scored two points, had three assists and committed no turnovers. Look to see more of Populist -- and less of Chris Bass, the other backup point guard -- in the weeks to come. Bass had no points, no assists and one turnover Feb. 20 in six minutes.
--Sophomore G Aaron Dotson had a team-high 16 points including three 3-pointers in 22 minutes off the bench in a Feb. 23 win at Mississippi State. It was the first time this season Dotson led the Tigers in scoring.
--Freshman G Ralston Turner, who missed the first five conference games with a foot injury, had returned to form. He scored a game-high 18 points against Florida on Feb. 20 for his fourth straight double-digit output.
--Junior F Malcolm White, who had played at least 25 minutes in four consecutive games through Feb. 20, credited his ability to stay out of foul trouble in recent weeks to his work in the weight room. He said improving his core strength was helping him control his body and avoid contact in the lane. White, who started 26 of LSU's first 27 games, picked up early fouls in several games earlier this season.
--Freshman G Andre Stringer, who scored eight points against Florida, had failed to reach double digits in four straight games through Feb. 20. His scoring average had dipped to 11.8 points. Midway through the SEC season, Stringer scored 13, 19 and 15 points in consecutive games.